Slawson Exploration Co. Inc. designed and operates a vapor control system on North Dakota storage tanks for about 170 oil and gas production well pads, many of which are located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air Act, Slawson’s vapor control system isn’t efficient, leading to volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
“Safe, responsible and lawful development of domestic energy resources and technology is of great importance to a sustainable future for all Americans,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This Clean Air Act agreement will bring better air quality and lasting health benefits to communities in North Dakota, including the people of the Three Affiliated Tribes.”
The failures in the maintaining systems of the oil tanks are leaking VOCs, which can create a smog that irritates the lungs, worsens asthma, or increases the susceptibility to pneumonia, bronchitis and other illnesses, the EPA says.
The settlement includes a $2.1 million civil penalty, $2 million in environmental mitigation projects, and upgrades to the system, totaling $8 million.
According to the EPA, the system upgrades will reduce 11,700 tons of VOCs, 400 tons of poisonous air pollutants like benzene, toluene, and xylenes, as well as 2,600 tons of methane annually.
Benzene, a key ingredient in gasoline, is a known carcinogen that the American Cancer Society confirms is a cause of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The most common exposure pathway is through inhalation, but benzene can also be absorbed into the skin. Once in the bloodstream, benzene affects the bone marrow, thus potentially causing AML or other life-threatening diseases such as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and Aplastic Anemia.